A cold rain moved the performance from the Albany Distilling Company’s patio to a narrow chamber room. The setting enhanced the intimacy of the event. All 80 tickets were sold for a performance featuring Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins as a celebration for WEQX’s 35th anniversary on Thursday, Nov. 7.
The station out of Manchester, Vermont has been a bastion for independent radio for 35 years. Brooks Brown first fired a signal off Mount Equinox on Nov. 14, 1984. It played adult contemporary music for ten months before ultimately switching to its present alternative format. Though its studio resides in New England, its adopted home has long been Albany. The radio signal washes over the entire Capital District — the Tri-City of Albany, Schenectady, Troy and north to Glens Falls. Its influence upon the local scene is felt at various events, including Pearlpalooza, to which it provides acts.
There was symbolism in having the birthday party in Albany’s burgeoning Warehouse District. A corner of the city that has witnessed a boom in development over the past several years is converting a neighborhood of zombie properties into sound real estate investments. Such a project casts a shadow upon Albany Distilling Company’s Livingston Avenue location. The old juxtaposed with the new; from which Derrick Forget induced a Dawson Leary trip with an opening set generous with covers from the 90s, sprinkled with originals and favorites ranging from Chuck Berry to Led Zeppelin and beyond.
Jenkins took the stage wearing a bright yellow hoodie; a smiley face peered out from his back with the words “HARDCORE HAPPINESS” arched around it. He took in his surroundings and warmly greeted the crowd before him. It was the kind of scene he admitted to daydreaming of while songwriting. He likened the setting to a medieval castle, and that it did. Exposed brick walls stretched skyward towards a high ceiling, giving the room ample space for the half-dozen propane patio torches in the room. One such torch made Jenkins immediately regret his hoodie.
Jenkins treated the crowd with humorous anecdotes between each of the seven songs on his set. He opened with “Who Am I,” a track off Third Eye Blind’s latest release, Screamer. Afterwhich, he revealed how he hasn’t felt the same since a collision with another surfer prior to the band’s European tour earlier this year. “I went right and he went left,” he shared the details with deftly places pauses for comedic effect. “We smashed. I won. But, there’s this nerve that runs down your leg…”
“Sciatic,” the crowd responded with a collective grown.
“That’s what they call it,” said Jenkins. “Well, he lit it up, and ever since, whenever I sit down, I don’t want to sing. I want to scream.”
Jenkins treated the crowd with the full lyrical package to “Slow Motion.” The track was originally released on Third Eye Blind’s 1999 album, Blue. However, it was met with immediate controversy before it hit the shelves.
Miss Jones taught me English
But I think I just shot her son
Cause he owed me money
With a bullet in the chest you cannot run
Now he’s bleeding in a vacant lot
It was intended to blast Hollywood’s obsession with violence, drugs and crime in a year the world witnessed the horrific events of the Columbine shooting that April. In retrospect, the media did a self-assessment of their role in the event. People pointed fingers towards Marilyn Manson and his anti-social material, while the WB network famously pulled an episode of its popular “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” as it involved a high school student who planned to shoot his classmates. The song was released as an instrumental with only the chorus left in. The full song would not be released until 2006 with “The Collection.” Nonetheless, two decades after it was penned, the words were still jarring.
The night went off script, as Jenkins took the stage without a full setlist in mind. He entertained requests before cutting off the crowd two songs in. “No more hits. No more songs from the first album.” He threw in a cover of Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank” because he was compelled to share a Christmas song and did not have one of his own. “It’s kinda Christmasy.”
The highlight of the evening took place mid-set, when Jenkins coaxed the crowd into a singalong to “Shipboard Cook.”
So light em up boys here’s to your youth
Sing loud enough to tell the truth
I lost myself and that’s where I lost you
Ohh oh oh, let go of that whipping post
I’m always a ghost
The words cut deep into a crowd mature enough to tether them to a poignant experience; that, or to an episode of Dawson’s Creek.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.